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Question of the Day: Are the proposed changes to NFL kickoffs good, bad or much ado about nothing?

March 17, 2011 |  8:55 am



Writers from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the proposed changes to NFL kickoffs, including moving the kickoff up from the 30-yard line to the 35, and bringing a touchback out to the 25, as opposed to the 20. That would reduce the number of kickoff returns, for safety reasons, as the league has determined there are too many concussions and major injuries on those plays. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

 Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

I’m all for increasing player safety, but taking the teeth out of the kickoff game is going too far. The NFL competition committee’s proposed changes for kickoffs would give strategic advantages to teams that aren’t very good at kicking off, returning kickoffs and covering kicks, and would subsequently penalize the teams that are strong in those areas.  This is a rule change that would affect the competitive balance in the league. The kickoff return can be one of the most exciting plays in the game, and this rule would change that. Risk of injury is an unavoidable part of the game. With these changes, the NFL product might be more safe but less compelling.  Is it really a better league if it is diminishing the opportunities of stars like Devin Hester, Brad Smith and Leon Washington?  I think not.

Steve Svekis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Over the course of a single game, the rules change will spare players a half-dozen or so of the most violent, collision-filled sequences that occur in the NFL, as it will be a shock if the vast majority of kickers can't routinely get the ball deep into the end zone. So it is a prudent move in the grand scheme of trying to reduce players' head traumas as evidence continues to pour in regarding the grievous post-career lives to which so many of these crippled men are relegated. Strategically, coaches should be more than happy to let a team take the ball at the 25 as opposed to having a Devin Hester get a chance to drastically affect the outcome. As kickoff returns evaporate, however, so will one of the most electric moments in a game. This is a smart big-picture move, though.

[Updated at 1:27 p.m.

Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times

If the new kickoff rules were to pass, the game would be affected in a big way. Moving the ball up five yards could essentially take one of the most exciting plays, the kickoff return, out of football. When a return starts in the end zone, it's typically on or near the goal line. There aren't a lot of returns that begin deep in the end zone. Teams such as Chicago and Seattle with great returners can't be too excited about this, and it's not good news either for core special-teamers who set themselves apart with the way they cover kicks. If the changes were to be voted in, that would be welcome news for older kickers, guys such as Ryan Longwell and Adam Vinatieri, who don't have great kickoff legs. Of course, the reason for the proposed change is to reduce the number of injuries on a play that can be extremely dangerous, so the benefit of that can't be overlooked.]


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Photo: New York Jets fans cheer the opening kickoff during on Jan. 16. Credit: William Perlman / US Presswire